Over the President’s Day holiday, your Facebook wall may have blown up with links to various “articles” insisting that Pope Benedict had announced his retirement because he was about to face criminal charges connected to his involvement in covering up child molestation committed by priests.
These reports claim that an unnamed European government is preparing to issue an arrest warrant for Benedict for crimes against humanity, but that His Eminence worked out a deal with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano that granted him immunity from prosecution or extradition.
Addicting Info is just one site with the story:
The Pope, whose given name is Joseph Ratzinger, has a meeting with the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano on February 23 to beg for immunity against prosecution for allegations of child sex crimes. Apparently, this hastily arranged meeting, and likely the resignation as well, are the result of a supposed note received by the Vatican from an undisclosed European government that stated that there are plans to issue a warrant for the Pope’s arrest.
This letter was allegedly received on February 4, and Ratzinger resigned a week later.
There’s even a serious-sounding quasi-governmental group, the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State, calling for the Pope’s head and demanding that Napolitano “not collude in criminality” by protecting Benedict.
The only problem is that this story is completely made up.
First of all the Pope doesn’t live in Italy—he lives in Vatican City, which is its own city-state. Napolitano can’t really grant him immunity. It would be like President Obama asking Canada for immunity for crimes he committed in the U.S.
Secondly, it would be political suicide—and possibly the beginning of an international crisis—for a leader in Catholic-heavy Europe to file criminal charges against the Pope. What head of state would want to bring that on his or her head?
And lastly, the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State doesn’t exist—well, not in any official capacity. Its website provides little information about its origins and jurisdiction, save that it claims authority “from the self-evident Natural Law which resides within the reason and compassion of every man and woman.”
The entire “tribunal,”it seemes, is comprised of Rev. Kevin Annett, who is waging a one-man war against the Church from him home in Ireland. (Good on you, Rev.)
Reuters reports that, according to an unnamed source, Benedict is staying in Vatican City after he retires to avoid future suits. Nothing about crimes against humanity, tribunals or imunity deals.